M’hanncha: Moroccan Snake Cake

Friends and food are what Saturday nights are made for and often, through our own lack of planning, we end up with a lack of either. If Tim isn’t working he has a to do list for the day – loving to cross things out as he goes or if he does something not on the list, writing it down and then crossing it out so it’s official. If I’m not working I have a list in my head that I’m working through. When it get to Saturday evening Tim’s usually done for, most of the kids will be out at youth group, so he likes to watch soccer, Dad’s Army or Only Fools and Horses, so I mooch around feeling sorry for myself or search movies on Netflix, find nothing to watch and then read. Tonight was different. Things were planned! Friends and a Moroccan themed meal. A great end to our first Saturday of beautiful spring weather.

Rather unsurprisingly I volunteered to make dessert.   

Earlier in the week I researched Moroccan desserts online, started to panic when nothing appealed to me, then remembered the Moroccan section in ‘Jamie Oliver Does…’ sitting right on my bookshelf. There I found M’hanncha and date sauce which fit the bill. A filled filo pastry wound up in a spiral, looking like a traditional cumberland sausage or, I suppose, a snake. I like a challenge so decided to make it, though I renamed it ‘Moroccan Millionaire’s Cake’ as I shopped for ingredients. They were a little pricey. A few things I already had in the cupboard. Thankfully.

Making the paste is straightforward enough. I’ve never used rose water before so worried that the 4 tablespoons the recipe required would overpower the rest of the flavours. I suppose this is the risk taken when making something for a dinner party I haven’t baked before – and I couldn’t afford a trial run!

Rolling up is the most stressful part of the whole thing. Our kitchen island is not long enough so I had to line up my overlapped pastry sheets along our dining table. The filling is then spread along the length about 8cm from the edge, rolled up into a long sausage and then wound round into a spiral to make the snake. (Taking pictures is not a great idea during this process as it uses vital seconds up while the filo pastry dries out very quickly, making it hard to roll up.) Mine did crack and even broke in half so I had to do a patching up job with a spare sheet of pastry. During baking the snake spilled its guts in a couple of places despite my best patching efforts. It did give me a chance to taste test the filling before everyone else, however, and that was good.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, or so they say.

When we arrived at Lisa and Andy’s place, all eight of us, we sipped wine and chatted on the deck and watched turkey vultures circling over head until the evening got a bit chilly and we moved inside. The food was great – shrimp to start, beetroot salad, then Moroccan stew and couscous and then the snake dessert. All delicious and a little exotic.

Food is always secondary though. How great it is to get together with friends.

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